July 23rd, 2005

Publicists for terrorists

Austin Bay has written an article that is both thoughtful and thought-provoking. It covers a great deal of territory quickly and concisely, which is what Bay himself did on his recent whirlwind visit to Afghanistan and Iraq.

The article contains some evidence that Iraqization is starting to be effective, which ultimately will be the key to success in Iraq and a smaller American presence there. Bay doesn’t wonder whether the American military can do the job in Iraq, he wonders whether US public opinion and support can be sustained long enough to let them do it. It’s an excellent question, and Bay rightly notes the enormous role the press has to play in stirring up doubts.

Bay likens the Islamofascist terrorists in Iraq and elsewhere to a snake which, when attacked, uses its waning strength to strike a blow by sinking its fangs into its killer. The trouble is that many in this country don’t recognize that this particular snake is slowly dying, because its biting and thrashing look so scary at the moment. He adds:

An alarming number of [those in the US] these days betray impatience with our progress in the war on terror. It leaves you wondering if anyone in Washington–at least anyone in the Baby Boomer political class–knows what it takes to win a long, tedious, unavoidable war.

Previous generations did indeed seem to have more grit in that respect. But in this they were helped by journalists who considered it their duty to shape news in order to encourage morale on the home front, not discourage it. And these journalists, and the public, were also helped by politicians with a gift for stirring rhetoric, such as Churchill and Roosevelt. When Churchill spoke of blood, toil, tears, and sweat, the British people were willing to give those things, in part because of him.

Like it or not, we now live in an age that tends to look down with irony, cynicism, and disdain on whatever military-boosting press and politically stirring rhetoric we might be offered. And I clearly recall that in the post-9/11 weeks and months, George Bush attempted to warn us all that the war against terrorism (his euphemism for the war on Islamofascism) would be a very long and hard one, perhaps at times seeming interminable. But for whatever reason–his lack of sonorous and elegant delivery among them–many do seem to have forgotten his words and their obvious truth.

The press is proud of its post-Vietnam tendency to differentiate itself from the government and the military’s aims, and to be a sort of gadfly to them both. But, agree or disagree with the domino theory, Vietnam presented no clear and present danger to our country within our own boundaries. Now we do face such danger, although the press seems reluctant to adjust to this crucial difference.

In recent years it seems that the press has replaced its old pre-Vietnam role as willing and cooperative mouthpiece of its own government and military and instead has become the unwitting mouthpiece of the terrorists–those who would destroy that government. It’s not that the press praises the terrorists, of course; it’s simply that the work of the press has the effect of increasing public weariness and fear, which are among the terrorists’ goals. Every attack is trumpeted to the skies because it’s big news, but this means that the press is now in the business of publishing what amounts to terrorist press releases. As Bay writes:

Winning the global war against Islamicist terror ultimately means curbing the terrorists’ strategic combat power, and that means ending the media magnification of their bombs.

How to end this “media magnification?” Easier said than done; we have a free press, and we wish it to remain so. It is certainly not realistic to expect the press to stop publishing news of terrorist attacks, although one wonders whether such a voluntary blackout, if it were to actually happen, would in fact deprive the terrorists of a great deal of their power.

All we can try to do is to be watchdogs of the press. That’s part of where blogs come in–to point out the effects of publicizing terror, and to try to counter the fear, negativity, and weariness that ensues.

As one of those inspiring orators of times past, FDR, said in a different context years ago, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself.” It may not be the only thing, but it’s one of the main things, and it is as true of fighting terrorism as it was of fighting the Depression. Perhaps even more so.

22 Responses to “Publicists for terrorists”

  1. Steve J. Says:

    LARRY – “Bush and his administration also stressed the concern over state-supporting terrorism and extreme tyranny and oppression as factors in deciding upon a pre-emptive invasion.”

    THE PRESIDENT: Our mission is clear in Iraq. Should we have to go in, our mission is very clear: disarmament. 3/6/03
    http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2003/03/20030306-8.html

  2. Steve J. Says:

    LARRY – ” “WMD” were only ever a factor in the justifications for the war”

    “But make no mistake – as I said earlier – we have high confidence that they have weapons of mass destruction. That is what this war was about and it is about.” -Ari Fleischer Press Briefing 4/10/03

  3. Steve J. Says:

    PAUL – “Islamofascism is a fact and it must be defeated. Do we have the intestinal fortitude to last? “

    We have the fortitude but we don’t have the leaders. The Bush Administration outed a mole in Al-Queda last summer for poltical gain and outed Valerie Plame for political revenge.

  4. Steve J. Says:

    One of the “truth tour” clowns mentions that Iraqi security forces ride around in FLAT-BED TRUCKS.

    Heck, those aren’t safe even in the Green Zone.

  5. Larry Says:

    Notice that UB is careful not to define “stepping up”?

  6. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    OK, so larry’s not stepping up. Anybody else?

  7. Larry Says:

    Unknown Blogger: You don’t see the same level of debate about the (ongoing) situation in Afghanistan. Why is that I wonder?

    Because Iraq simply overshadows Afghanistan — if Iraq weren’t a factor, the howls on the left about Afghanistan would easily reach the same decibel levels. And that’s why it’s hard to take seriously the left’s counter arguments re: Iraq.

    But let’s, once again, take a serious look at yours, even if we’ve heard them many times before, and answered them many times over:

    …the facts remain that the invasion of Iraq was a big departure from prior US foreign policy and Bush’s own pre-9/11 position against nation-building.

    True — just as the immense fact remains that 9/11 was a big “departure” from the prior state of the US in the world, and it required a departure in policy. Not so for the Kerry Democrats, it’s true, who seem determined to resist change regardless of any change in circumstances — but fortunately the last election seemed to indicate that the American people are wiser than that.

    It also happened to neatly coincide with a years-old neo-conservative agenda

    It would be helpful to have a reference for this and/or an explanation of what you mean, but, lacking that, the obvious answer is just, so what? Wouldn’t that “coinciding” be simply a consequence of the fact that, in searching for a new path for American foreign policy post-9/11, that “years-old neo-conservative” agenda has taken on new relevance? Here’s an article that argues just that.

    …was subject to changing justifications from the beginning

    This is largely an illusion of the left — most of what changed were simply their own obsessions or fixations. “WMD” were only ever a factor in the justifications for the war, and “stockpiles” of WMDs were only a factor within a factor (other factors being a concern over the ability and willingness to generate terrorist-level quantities of such weapons at short notice). But from the start, Bush and his administration also stressed the concern over state-supporting terrorism and extreme tyranny and oppression as factors in deciding upon a pre-emptive invasion.

    …and is providing a $4 billion boon to the VP’s former company

    Here we get an sniff of the real fever swamps of the left — a Vice President will take his country into a war costing hundreds of billions of dollars and thousands of lives of his own soldiers, managing to convince not just his impressionable President, and not just a majority of the Administration, but a majority of both Houses of Congress as well, all so that his former company might be able to make money from it?

    You see, UB, the reason the contemporary left is increasingly ignored in America is not simply that it’s pervaded by a neurotic level of both fear and guilt — it’s that significant numbers of them have taken flight into a cartoon world of tinfoil hat conspiracies. Ironic that they so often accuse the right of lacking nuance, no?

  8. roman Says:

    Kung Fu.., Yes it could be interpretted that the bicycles represent the “stiff upper lip” of Londoners but the commentary accompanying the scene left me with the distinct impression that these people were abandoning the tube system beause it was unsafe.
    Put another notch in the belt of the islamoterrorists?
    All I am saying is that the “casually involved” viewer is going to walk away with a message quit different than you or I.

  9. The Unknown Blogger Says:

    For many people there are two wars, the War on Terror, and the War in Iraq. For many of them, the War in Iraq is analogous to something like an invasion of Korea after Pearl Harbor.

    You can dismiss their arguments and call them cowards and idiots all you want, the facts remain that the invasion of Iraq was a big departure from prior US foreign policy and Bush’s own pre-9/11 position against nation-building. It also happened to neatly coincide with a years-old neo-conservative agenda, was subject to changing justifications from the beginning, and is providing a $4 billion boon to the VP’s former company. So can you blame people for being a tad skeptical?

    It was the Bush team’s decision to launch a war in Iraq that was internally (and externally, if that matters to you) devisive, and now we all have to live with the consequences. But you can’t expect everybody to just hop happily on board now that the ball is rolling. If they needed the whole country’s support they should have made the case better. You don’t see the same level of debate about the (ongoing) situation in Afghanistan. Why is that I wonder?

    And although, yes, I believe Bush referred to the War on Terror as a long arduous war, you seem to have forgotten that the War in Iraq was depicted as pretty much a cakewalk. I remember Dick Cheney on TV saying The invasion would last “weeks, not months” and how we would probably be in and out in a year. How long ago now was the “Mission Accomplished” speech?

    And all you guys talking about the left’s “softness” and lack of willingness or ability to sacrifice, WHAT has anyone except the soldiers (and their families and friends) been asked to sacrifice as a result of the War in Iraq?

    You guys talk like there has been constant mocha-latte rationing for the last 3 years and the left is cracking under the pressure. As far as I can tell, so far Bush just keeps cutting taxes and telling us to all go shopping.

    If you really care about winning in Iraq, and believe a unified home front is essential, wouldn’t it be the least you could to never tire of making the case for the war to those who remain unconvinced? You may not always succeed, but you definitely aren’t going to convince anyone by calling them ignorant commie wimps.

    But I think I can see where this is headed: if it doesn’t work out, you won’t have to take any responsibility, you’ll just blame the press and the left for withering support at home. “If only everyone had gotten on board…” …What?

    What would possibly be different today if there were 100% domestic support for the war in Iraq? Maybe enlistment would be higher. Maybe we’d see some of the Bush kids in uniform. (But I doubt it. Jenna, Barbara, and George Prescott are all eligible, just to name 3. Why not complain on your blogs about them and their “lack of willingness to sacrifice?”) But would the terrorists putting together another car bomb suddenly look at the latest poll in the NYT and just say “100% support? Oh, what’s the use?”

    Somehow you think are the only ones who can see past the brainwashing influence of the media and see the real truth, and everyone else is just a bunch of rubes or traitors. If you think national unity is important to winning a war, you guys need to get over that, stop whining about Jane and Paul and people with Che t-shirts, and step up. Isn’t it your patriotic duty?

  10. cakreiz Says:

    I’ve always thought we Boomers are spoiled and solipsistic, so consumed by our own wonder that we can’t don’t comprehend much. Bay asks rhetorically if the Boomer political class knows what it takes to win a protracted war. Hardly. We’re not about sacrifice. We still worship through the skewed prism of Vietnam. We don’t know much about history- we see ourselves as invulnerable. But ask us about great rock concerts and drug experiences- and we all become instant experts. Pathetic.

  11. Paul Says:

    It amazes me as to how many Americans denigrate their own country and never speak of the evil that we are fighting. Islamofascism is a fact and it must be defeated. Do we have the intestinal fortitude to last?

  12. kung fu Says:

    Roman,

    What’s wrong with showing Londoners on bikes going to work? Should the press not have reported that if it actually happened? I can understand frustration with spin, but if the bikes actually happened, what’s wrong with showing it? It might just as easily have been spun the other way; you know, Londoners show resilience and return to work by whichever means possible, despite the bombings.

  13. knoxgirl Says:

    Promethea, I feel the same way about Boomers, though I realize the vast majority is not so self-aggrandizing as those in the media. For example, Vanity Fair has an essay contest right now requesting submissions about why youth culture is so shallow now, when the youth of *their* day was so involved and concerned.

    As if being an activist wasn’t cool and trendy, and Woodstock wasn’t Spring Break. Whatever.

    I certainly can’t wait for the Boomers in the MSM to retire so we don’t have to hear so much of the news through that particular prism.

  14. Paul Says:

    A dying snake can still inflict a painfull or even mortal wound. Iraq is a serpent that has many heads each of which must be cut off before we can claim victory.

  15. Anonymous Says:

    It is no accident that the majority of bombings in Iraq are during U.S. press hours. The bombing and news cycle are pretty much the same.

    Chuck, Joe Queenan wrote a very funny book about Baby Boomers. You might enjoy “Balsamic Dreams”, I don’t know if I spelled the first word right but it has something to do with vinegar.

  16. chuck Says:

    Promethea,

    I am a boomer, and often in the past I would mutter to myself that mine had to be the dumbest generation ever produced in this country. Perhaps it isn’t true, perhaps the generation writing in the twenties and thirties with their infatuation with communism and pacifism were just a dumb. Perhaps there are other equally dumb generations I am unfamiliar with, but the boomers are sure in contention for the blue ribbon of dumbness.

  17. Promethea Says:

    The mainstream press has been almost childlike in its analysis of global terrorism and the dangers of Islam. I’ve really come to wonder if there isn’t something wrong with the liberal or leftwing-style baby boomers.

    Growing up in prosperous times, having access to decent college educations at relatively little cost, having many white-collar jobs available, and disposable income–they are SPOILED.

    There is really no other explanation except decadence to explain their willful blindness to the terrorist threat–ESPECIALLY after 9-11.

    The older generation (older than me) I can forgive. They’ve stopped learning and are out of the loop. But the writers for the MSM? Feh.

    Thank G*d for the blogosphere, or I would be in total despair by now.

  18. Goesh Says:

    90+ more massacred in Egypt. Surely they want more bang for their bucks these guys – no wonder they want nuke material to make a small bomb to be transported in a suitcase – one jihadi seeking admission to paradise getting an express, fast-lane ticket if he can take out 50-60K infidels in one bang from a small package – they aren’t going to stop coming at us you know. Play by the rules with terrs, lose by the rules.

  19. Brian H Says:

    Bay’s foray into the MSM is pretty much a compendium of recent blog entries. Good stuff, but nothing new that I saw.

    I think the pro-liberation forces primarily just have to “keep on truckin’”. The accumulation of Arab and ME support for liberation is the final and unanswerable answer to the “passivist” carping.

  20. Pancho Says:

    Vietnam presented no clear and present danger to our country within our own boundaries. Now we do face such danger…

    Of all the differences between Iraq and Vietnam, and there are many, the one cited is the BIG difference. There was no real penalty to the US public whether we lost in Vietnam. There is if we become unsure of ourselves in the war against Islamic fundamentalism.

  21. roman Says:

    A good recent example of the press being unwitting publicists for the terrorists’ aims is a MSM report showing hordes of Londoners on their way to work on bicycles.
    Fear is indeed a powerful weapon and the press keeps pulling the trigger. All the news that’s fit to print? Let’s be a little more introspective and less knee-jerking when repoting on events associated with terror.

  22. camojack Says:

    “All we can try to do is to be watchdogs of the press. That’s part of where blogs come in–to point out the effects of publicizing terror, and to try to counter the fear, negativity, and weariness that ensues.”

    S.S.D.D.

    As a member of the “blogosphere”, I’m more than happy to call the “mainstream” media on their biased reporting…but damn it all, they are the ones who are supposed to be the “watchdogs”, not the spinmeisters into which they’ve devolved. Freedom of the Press wasn’t meant to include the freedom to foist their agenda on the rest of us…

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